Bobby Bowden on boosters, Paterno and a national title
GREENBELT, MD. -- Bobby Bowden settled into a chair at Florida State's team hotel on Friday night, and before the questions even began, he mentioned how he wished his team was 7-0.
"And so do the boosters," Bowden quipped.
But Florida State is 4-3 for the first time since 1983 and unranked heading into Saturday night's game at Maryland. His team has lost seven of its last 12 games. And shortly before his 77th birthday, with the Seminoles mired in last place, two FSU boosters came out this week and said it is time for Bowden to retire.
Here is some of what Bowden had to say Friday night to ESPN college football reporter Joe Schad. Bowden was spirited, and you might even say defiant.
Schad: What has this season been like for you?
Bowden: It's been disappointing. The big thing is we backed ourselves into a corner the last 20 years. We won too many games for our people. We haven't lived up to our expectations. I'm disappointed we haven't won more games, but I am not disappointed in our players.
Schad: What has been the reaction to being in last place?
Bowden: We've probably got about 100,000 boosters. Who are you talking about? One booster speaks out, I'm too old, I oughta retire. He's half right, but I'm not ready. Most of them are guys who don't know football.
Schad: At what stage of your career do you feel you're at?
Bowden: I'm getting down to latter years. I want to coach as long as I feel good. I'd rather do this than retire. I have to face reality, I can't coach forever. I've got to win goshdarn games. I am going to stay as long as you are here, I've told my players that. There will be a day when my health won't allow me to go on.
Schad: You've said you'll coach unless you're being unfair to Florida State. What would be unfair?
Bowden: It would be unfair if my kids weren't playing the best they could. They are. But they are making mistakes. That's what the freshman are supposed to do.
Schad: At what time in you career do you feel you were most effective as a coach?
Bowden: I've had success nearly everywhere I've been. In the '90s, we won more games than any other school in the history of college football. We were number one every week since the end of the season. That's what spoiled people. You ain't gonna do that every season.
Schad: How do you compare now, as a coach?
Bowden: Today as a coach? I haven't forgotten anything. (Pauses) We haven't been successful. We lost three ball games. Nobody has bashed us. Nobody has knocked us around. We could have won in the last minute. We're close.
Schad: How does you situation now compare to Joe Paterno's two years ago?
Bowden: Joe said, "I'll be back." Well, I feel the same way. You get to my age, the team is successful. And then they stop winning and people start looking for excuses.
Schad: Have you and Joe Paterno talked about how some things are different now?
Bowden: Nowadays, a problem occurs and the whole country knows. It's kind of made it less fun off the field. Our greatest moments come when we go to practice.
Schad: Why is it less fun?
Bowden: When I first started coaching, you either won or lost. Then they might talk about the game, but nobody blamed anybody. Now it's gotten to, lose a ball game, somebody tries to blame. Football is a team game.
Schad: What will you do if a president or athletic director tells you to make changes to your coaching staff?
Bowden: Won't work. I see that a lot. They don't want to fire the coach so you have to get rid of so and so. I don't work that way. I believe in loyalty to my guys. If they aren't working hard, I will get someone else. The public wants a hanging. I won't play that game. If you want to put me out of coaching, try to get me to play that game.
Schad: Some people blame your son, Jeff.
Bowden: If my son were not the coordinator, I don't think you'd hear half the things you hear. If you hire a son, you are going to catch it unless you win every game. The most unjust thing in the world is public opinion. The public judges him guilty already.
Schad: What about making a change there, to help relieve the pressure of the situation?
Bowden: We're tougher than that. Do you think that I would let a fan out there or a sportswriter tell me who to hire? if I do, I should not be in coaching. Any coach who listens to fans is going to be sitting with them pretty soon.
Schad: How do you envision your last season as a coach?
Bowden: My last season? I would still like to win another national championship. There will be a time and point where that won't happen. We can do that at FSU. We might be one player away.